Features and Columns · Movies

The Fruitful Failure of Steven Spielberg’s ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ Sequel

Steven Spielberg’s ‘Night Skies’ was never made, but what audiences wound up getting instead was much better.
Close Encounters Of Third Kind sequel Night Skies
Columbia Pictures
By  · Published on August 24th, 2020

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video that explores Steven Spielberg’s Dark Skies, the Close Encounters sequel that never came to be.

It’s a rarity, but one of my favorite flavors of behind-the-scenes tidbits is the failed film that splintered into more well-known projects. Concrete proof of the liquid state of the creative process, failures are never really failures while re-working stuck ideas can pay off in spades.

One of the great examples of a fruitful disaster is Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune. In the mid-1970s, the avant-garde Chilean director was given a blank check to adapt Frank Herbert’s space epic, and the project quickly bloated and never wound up being made. The 2013 (un)making-of documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune recounts the details, but in short: Jodorowsky’s efforts led to creative partnerships that spawned Alien and Star Wars.

For another example, we can look to Steven Spielberg.

After the success of his 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Columbia Pictures, wanted a sequel. So, Spielberg developed a treatment. And the result was Night Skiesa loose adaptation of an infamous “alien encounter” at a Kentucky farmhouse. While Spielberg got to work on Raiders of the Lost Ark, John Sayles worked on the Close Encounters 2 treatment, and Rick Baker even designed the creatures.

While ultimately Night Skies never came together as a feature film, in a way, it still saw the light of day. All told, the work-in-progress wound up instigating collaborations with Tobe Hooper, Melissa Mathison, and Joe Dante. So: had there been no Nights Skies, there’d have been no Poltergeist, no E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and no Gremlins.

While audiences never got their indirect Closer Encounters follow-up, as the video essay below argues, what they wound up getting was arguably much better.

Watch “The Lost Spielberg Film“:

Who made this?

Andrew J. Wright (a.k.a. Dr. Urdu) is a Canadian video essayist devoted to horror history. The channel aims to shed light on the deeper intricacies of an often derided genre by presenting these films as more than just cheap thrill rides. You can subscribe to Dr. Urdu on YouTube here. You can follow Wright on Twitter here.

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Meg has been writing professionally about all things film-related since 2016. She is a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects as well as a Curator for One Perfect Shot. She has attended international film festivals such as TIFF, Hot Docs, and the Nitrate Picture Show as a member of the press. In her day job as an archivist and records manager, she regularly works with physical media and is committed to ensuring ongoing physical media accessibility in the digital age. You can find more of Meg's work at Cinema Scope, Dead Central, and Nonfics. She has also appeared on a number of film-related podcasts, including All the President's Minutes, Zodiac: Chronicle, Cannes I Kick It?, and Junk Filter. Her work has been shared on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Business Insider, and CherryPicks. Meg has a B.A. from the University of King's College and a Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto.